ODESSA, the Organization of Former SS Members (“Organization Der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen”), was an organization founded in 1944 with the express purpose of helping Nazi members flee Europe and escape justice.
As early as 1947,Simon Wiesenthal began to identify routes used by Nazis to escape from Germany knowing that the fugitives had little or no difficulty obtaining false papers and seemed to have enough money available to establish new lives. Wiesnethal concluded that a secret organization with substantial resources had to be involved in helping these fugitive Nazis.
As it turned out, this organization not only existed then but its seeds had been planted even before World War II ended.
By 1944, it was clear that the fortunes of war had turned against Nazi Germany. Many Germans began to anticipate defeat and to plan for that eventuality. On August 10, 1944, a secret meeting of top German industrialists and bankers was held at the Maison Rouge hotel in Strasbourg to devise a means of insuring a secure future for the Nazis Among those attending were coal tycoon Emil Kirdorf , Georg von Schnitzler of IG Farben, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, steel magnate, Fritz Thyssen , and banker Kurt von Schroeder.
The Nazis recognized that Germany’s assets would fall into the hands of the rapidly approaching enemy if they were not transferred and hidden. The nation’s wealth, much of it acquired through the plunder of the nations it invaded and the people the Nazis murdered, had to be transferred so they would be out of judicial reach, but accessible to fund a future movement to resurrect the party and build a new Reich. Leading Nazi officials also feared retribution from the Allies and, rather than face likely punishment for their war crimes, they decided to seek safe havens outside Germany, and beyond the reach of justice. According to the protocol from the meeting:
The party leadership is aware that, following the defeat of Germany, some of her best-known leaders may have to face trial as war criminals. Steps have therefore been taken to lodge the less prominent party leaders as “technical experts” in various German enterprises. The party is prepared to lend large sums of money to industrialists to enable every one of them to set up a secret post-war organization abroad, but as collateral it demands that the industrialists make available to it exisitng resources abroad, so that a strong German Reich may re-emerge after the defeat…..
The outcome of the meeting in Strasbourg was the genesis of an organization; one well-financed and well-organised, with the express purpose of helping fleeing Nazis escape justice. This organization was called the “Organization Der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen” ( “The Organization of former SS members) — better known as Odessa.
Krunoslav Stjepan Draganović (born 30 October 1903, Brčko, died 3 June 1983, Sarajevo) was a Croatian Roman Catholic priest and historian. He is associated with Odessa and the ratlines which aided the escape of Ustase and high SS war criminals from Europe after World War II while he was living and working at the College of St. Jerome in Rome. The Ustaše, also known as “Ustashe”, “Ustashas”, and “Ustashi”, were members of the Ustaša – Croatian Revolutionary Movement , a Croatianfascist, ultranationalist and terrorist organization, active, in its original form, between 1929 and 1945. Its members murdered hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews and Roma (Gypsies) in Yugoslavia during WWII.
Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele were some of the most notorious of the Nazis to escape Germany thanks to ODESSA, but Eichmann was eventually captured in South America by Israeli Intelligence agents and brought back to Israel to stand trial for his crimes against the Jewish people.
Odessa ceased to exist about 1952 and was replaced by an organization called Kameradenwerke (“Comrade Workshop”), which over the following decades sought to aid former Nazis overseas in avoiding capture and maintaining concealment. Whereas Odessa’s work was centred in Germany, Kameradenwerke’s operations were conducted in foreign lands, especially where governments were sympathetic to ultra-right-wing causes, as in Argentina, Paraguay, and Chile.